Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Sub-tropical Paradise Jungle

So I love living in this beautiful subtropical paradise, but today I had an interesting day. As many of you know I'm in the military (US Air Force) and that I work a job on an aircraft. Well, today I went into work at about 8am for a briefing that was supposed to last all morning but because there were only two of us in the class it was cut short. Then around 12 noon the other person (an aeromedical evacuation medic) and I went out into the jungle. We went with the survival instructor to an abandoned (mostly anyways) old base and practiced evasion. At first the instructor walked with us and talked about plans of how to evade and navigate through the jungle.

I've only been here a little over 3 months and I've never ventured into the jungle before, so today was new! After a short instructional bit we were sent on a short (about 200 yard) land-nav trek without the instructor. Since I've done this before I let the medic lead (plus if I went too fast I would just have to keep stopping to wait for her) and I counted steps. It was cool. Then the instructor took us to another point on base, showed us where the pick-up point was on the map and sent us on our way. This time though there was a small group of people chasing us (at least 4 counting the instructor). The goal was to walk through the trackless jungle quietly without getting caught. The "bad guys" had some distinct advantages: they had cars, more comfortable clothes, no backpack, a virtually unlimited amount of food and most importantly, they knew where we started and where we were headed.

Right away, we went down a hill and had to cross a small "stream" the reason I put that in quotes... it was more like a narrow bog. Since the medic was leading, she made it across first (nearly) unscathed, she stepped in up to her thigh just as she was about to get across. Well, my fat old self, with a backpack on tried to cross also, yeah, first two steps, up to my thighs in mud/muck. Oh well, gotta keep going, crawled the rest of the way across without much sinking; great way to start off let me tell you! After that we went on quietly and slowly till we came up to a road. If you learn anything about evading bad guys from this, learn this: crossing roads, paths, rivers, streams etc. is the hardest part of running away from bad guys because that's where they'll be patrolling.

So, being the more experienced, (the medic girl had been through only minimal evasion training and never been in the field running from bad guys before) I went first. I crawled up slowly and looked out. Of course what do I see but one of the bad guy's head and his black ball-cap. I thought he saw me so, as quickly as I could, I hurried back down the hill to the waiting medic and we take off down the ravine. Unfortunately, because we went too fast, we were making more noise than usual and they heard us and tracked us (this we found out later).

After hurrying (as much as one can hurry through jungle mess) on down away from the bad guys, we finally figure we've lost them and it's safe to try to cross the road again. We make it across with no problems, but in our haste again we leave a mark where we crossed the road because we had to slide down the hill on our butts off the road. We make it to about 50 yards from our pick-up point with about an hour and a half to spare and we're chilling in a little thicket when the bad guys walk up and find us! Aaah! Of course they pretend to be capturing us for a minute or so, then they tell us where we went wrong and how they tracked us, then they walk off. We still have about an hour before we're going to be picked up so we just sit around for a while. After some time we're told to go to the pick-up point 15 min earlier than previously planned so we leave our not-so-hidden-spot and head for the pick-up point. As it turns out, we're literally only about 50 yards away, though we though it was about 150 yards, and we put out a little rescue marker and again sit and wait.

The rest of the story is pretty anticlimactic since we just get picked up by the good guy and we go back to base and talk over what was good and what was bad about how we evaded. All in all a fun yet exhausting day! I painted my face with camo paint and got to hike around the jungle for "work" today. It was fun, but when I got home I had to take a really long shower to wash off all the jungle muck. I don't think I'd want to do that for real, but I'm sure I could if my life depended on it.
Black & White of the boys at sunset at our favorite sunset beach